NEW ORLEANS (TheStreet) -- Figuring out which 4G plans to use for your business won't be easy.
With major wireless carriers such as
and T-Mobile finally getting off their techno-duffs and deploying legit, faster 4G cell networks, I am finally able to get my hot little mitts on these tools and to see how they really fare here on the business battlefield.
The Pantech UML290 4G USB Modem, which Verizon sells as a wireless connection to its LTE 4G network, is well-built and well-designed. It's the expensive service that gives a customer pause.
To wit, I am down in the Big Easy hustling up business, and in the process giving Verizon's so-called LTE 4G network a test spin. The company provided a demo of a Pantech UML290 4G USB Modem ($100 with a plan) and I have been working with it here and in and around the New York City area.
My verdict? Oh, is LTE cool. The service provides dazzling performance, terrific features and can be considered a real substitute for a traditional hardwire broadband connection. But, sadly, several issues limit its practical business application. And will for some time.
What you get
There is no a doubt about it: LTE sets the gold standard for performance and features for business wireless cellular access.
This service is crazy good. The Pantech modem is one of the best-designed and built USB modems I have ever seen: nice form factor, solid plastics, a two-way rotating antennae(!), a clever extension cable, an add-on laptop clip and a way-slick foldaway USB connector. And setup is easy: Just plug it in and Verizon's VZAccess Manager brokers the connection to the company's cellular network. Then it's Houston, we have liftoff.
And liftoff it is. Performance is breathtaking. I routinely got 10 megabits per second for content downloaded to my PC -- basically faster than that DSL or broadband-connected computer you are probably using right now to read this story. And basically any Web-based application I touch, from LiquidPlanner to
, runs as fast it would on any office Internet connection.
With Verizon LTE, you get a 100%, no-compromise Web experience and you get it anywhere. How cool is that?
What you don't get
All the blazing performance is insanely pricey, and it is nowhere near deployed nationally.
First, cost: $100 for the modem is reasonable, but Verizon's service plans are as breathtaking as its performance -- and not in a good way. Believe it or not, $80 for 10 GB per month will probably not be enough for even average business use, and while there are other, cheaper plans, the very speed of the network encourages use -- it's addictive, and you get hooked fast and hard.
And what happens after you go over a cap? You pay. The company says it bills $10 per month for every 1 GB over the 10 GB cap. In my testing I used 1 GB every two days or so. That's 15 GB of monthly usage, or something like $50 in overage fees. That is on top of whatever cell phone or other communication tolls you pay for cell voice access.
To its credit, Verizon tells you repeatedly how much data you're using, but it is still surprising how much material you consume.
And really, truly, LTE is a long ways away from being deployed nationally. Just look at
. This is a strictly big-city service.
If you're not covered, it does not work, although handoff to the lesser 3G network is excellent, or at least was in my limited test. More on that in coming weeks with the coming Wi-Fi modem.
For a no-compromise, Web-on-the-go wireless solution, Verizon LTE is the answer. The system is crazy fast, bulletproof and beautifully engineered. Just be warned that it can cost a small fortune to use, and it will only work fully in part of the country.
Which means, when you factor all that in, and compare it with what Sprint, T-Mobile and eventually AT&T offer, and make a real business decision, you will probably find that as lovely as Verizon's LTE is, these other solutions will probably be more practical.
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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.